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tv   Transition to Civilian Life  CSPAN  June 2, 2014 2:53am-5:13am EDT

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that is absolutely critical. by doing that, we will go a long way in helping the great group of people that are out there that really need to get some help. i am sometimes criticized for winning to drop the d. people say i have talked to all kinds of people and they say they had no problem with the d at all they called the disorder. that is the wrong group of people to talk to. talk to soldiers who say at 19 years old i do not want to be told i have a disorder because i had to pick up my friend in pieces on the side of the road and put him in a body bag so i could bring him home. i do not want to be told i have a disorder because of that. ending the stigma and getting folks in to get the help that we can give them and over time improving that help is what i
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hope we can all do. >> not only improving that helped but also educating the country to know that there is treatment for that and they can be great contributors to society and the workplace. we thank you very much for those thoughts. we leave it up to you to connect those dots and help others as well. [applause] >> friday he attends ceremonies in normandy, marking the 70th anniversary of the d-day
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invasion of world war ii. russian president vladimir putin is also scheduled to be at the ceremonies. house hearing on programs to help veterans returned to civilian life. then, former president george h.w. bush is honored. after that, q and a with author brett the behr. >> the soviet system in eastern europe contained the seeds of its own destruction. many of the problems that we saw at the end again at the very beginning. i spoke about the attempt to control all institutions and control all parts of the economy and political and social life. one of the problems when you do
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that, when you try to control everything, you create a position and potential dissidents everywhere. if you tell all artists they have to paint the same way and one artist says no, you have just made him into a political dissident, somebody who might otherwise have been a political. if you tell boy scout troops they are not allowed to be boy scouts and now they have be young pioneers, and one group decides they don't like that and form a secret underground boy scout troop, which absolutely happened in poland throughout the communist. , you just created another group of political opponents from otherwise apolitical teenagers. >> read more of our conversation with anne applebaum and other featured interviews from our book notes and q&a programs in c-span's sundays at eight. now available for a father's day gift at your favorite oak seller. -- favorite book seller.
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>> the hearing took place before the resignation of veterans affairs secretary's eric shinseki. linda halliday says she has concerns with other areas because the priority has always been to decrease the backlog. as a result, other issues are not being addressed in a timely manner. this is two and a half hours.
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>> today's hearing will focus on the v.a.'s role in the transition from service member to veteran with a particular focus on the integrated to stability evaluation system commonly known as ides. the quality of the ace components in the process. further, i would like to hear today about the quality of communication, both within the transitioning service members as well as between the department of defense and the department of veterans affairs in this process. first, while i understand that timelines are improving, we want to start off by making it clear why continuing improvements matter.
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i am frequently contacted by service members were frustrated with the process. they do not know how long it is going to take, when they will get answers, and they don't know when they can make plans for their future. i understand that the dod reports hide dissatisfaction from service members undergoing but is -- i understand that it may not be a top priority for the v.a. because the v.a. has chosen to put fairly exclusive focus on eliminating backlog claims. to the detriment of these transitioning service members. so, let's begin the understanding that if this belief exists at the v.a., it is not ok. these transitioning service members have served in recent years during a decade plus wars of -- in iraq and afghanistan.
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many with service-connected injuries that event continuing military service. here i have correspondence from the past couple of months received from soldiers who were awaiting the start of the post military lives. >> it has been four years since i spent christmas with my family. i have gone through the processes and currently awaiting ratings. another reads, "i have been waiting for my leave for a long time. i've contacted my v.a. reps and the only way i can contact them is if i go down to their office. i call and call and leave e-mails but never get anything
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back unless i'm in their offices. it puts a strain on my family and i try to convince my family it is going to come any day now. it hasn't and now my wife wants to get a divorce. i don't know what i would do without my two daughters and my wife. if there is anything you can do to help me out or get me some information that would be great." i wouldn't reach out if it weren't so important. i have been under so much stress that my blood pressure has shot through the roof. if there is anything you could do to assist me in figuring out what it has taken so long for
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the v.a. to rate me and expedite the process i would be grateful. this is defining the v.'s performance and the transition process. if nothing else, i want that to be the takeaway, define the expectations. they have served honorably during a difficult time in the military. they deserve reasonable, defined expectations as their timeline, futures, their transition to the civilian world more must be done to define expectations. in addition to the updates at the forefront of today's hearing, we will seek information on the process including the uses of brokering
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as well as timelines and accuracy that delivers quick-start programs. we will hear about the v.a.'s new quick-start program that macon sol date the new quick-start programs. i look forward to hear from today's witnesses and with that i begin intro duxes. seated at the witness table we have all members from the panel. from the department of defense secretary of defense, who is accompanied by david bowen director of health technology health agency and from the department of veterans affairs deputy from under field operations with the benefits administration who is accompanied by the director of compensation services. upon the conclusion of the first
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panel, we will seek two subsequent panels that will include linda halliday. accompanied by nora stokes and with the specialist vision. panel three is a representative from the american federation and the agfge national v.a. counsel. debra gipson is here today and she will be introduced shortly by our congressman. mr. gerardo avila a national representative with the american
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legion and the assistants director with disabled american veterans and veteran with the foreign war of the united states. i must advise pursuit ant to title 18 of the united states code section known as the false statement act. this is a crime to knowingly give false statements in federal jurisdiction, including a congressional hearing. i thank you all for being here today. i yield to the ranking member for her opening statement. >> thank you mr. chairman. thank you for holding this hearing today. thank you for coming to provide us with some needed information. as you heard the chairman describe, today we're going to look into the performance of v.a. and d.o.d. utilized for determining fit for duty status
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for ill or injured service members as well as expediting claims for separating service members. particularly, we're going to focus on the disability system, the discharge program and the quick-start program. all of these programs have been up and running for a number of years. ideas was initiated in 2007 as a follow-up on the poor conditions and fragmented care that was exposed at walter reed army hospital. b.d.d. was launched in 1995 as a pilot program and became fully operational in 1998. the intent was to assist disabled service members to make a seamless transition into civilian life to get their claim completed as early as possible while they have their medical
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information readily available. quick start launched in 2008 ain't was established to provide an expedited process to service members who is going to be discharged in 59 days. despite having long been established and have enough time to get over growing pains and any of the problems in the early stages, all of these programs continue to face challenges and are performing far below expectations. the one similarity that they seem to have is they suffer from a continued poor performance in the ad jude cation in each of the three programs. a particular interest to me is a number of claims under quick start and b.d.d. that have dropped off. there are fewer claims now than they used to be and i'm concerned that the reason for that is service members are
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choosing to bypass these programs that are designed to provide an expedited system that it delays the process of receiving benefits. in fact, quick start has been known to been called quick start and slow finish as a result of that. we've had highlighted for us by the v.a.'s o.i.g. about eliminating the backlog has shifted priorities and come at the expense of other benefits and claims such as ideas and quick start, which have been moved to the back burner and that is unfortunate. you heard the chairman read some of the e-mails we've been receiving. they all have the same ask, i'm in the army, i'm waiting on a decision. my family and i need to get on with our lives. our staff has witnessed first hand the poor culture that is often present at these ideas
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stations and wounded warriors battalions. i want to thank ms. gip son who recently went to the process and came with us today to talk about the negative culture that is in the programs and how we might address it. it is just a concern that these programs are supposed to be so helpful end up being harmful because they hold our service members lives in bureaucratic limbo. a service member who enters the program won't complete the program until 180 days will be spent waiting for a v.a. raider to pick up the claim and provide him or her with a rating, just to get a rating it takes that long. as our service members wait for a rating decision, they are forced to delay critical aspects of their transition. they and their spouses hesitant
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to relocate, buy a home, enter a school program, to find a new job because they don't know what is going to happen to them. now we know that service members face obstacles when they are transitioning out of the armed services. that is difficult enough. the v.a. should be an asset not a hinderance to that process. i think we need to take a hard look at the resources we're dedicating to these programs and figure out how we can meet their goals today and not tomorrow. so we need to take a fresh look at these programs. we recently, with the staff recently looked at this and found that 95% of the service members who enter the program are not fit to serve because of an illness or injury so they know they will be discharged. 95%, if we know that many are not going to go back into the service or be discharged,
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shouldn't we take a different approach offering them flexibility, options while they are making that transition? i hope those are the kinds of things we will look at today in this hearing and see if we can't reprioritize and shift our emphasis on being flexible and making this work as opposed to having family sit around waiting for the rating. thank you and i yield back. >> thank you with that i recognize the chairman of the full committee mr. miller for a statement. >> thank you very much, mr. chairman. i appreciate the indulgence. i want to make a few remark on the process in regards to ideas. the timeline to receive benefits is targeted not to exceed 295 days but recent d.o.d. and v.a. reports place the average timeline at over 350 days.
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that's an average but that average means there are many service members that take longer to complete. in an effort to address ideas and efficiencies i introduced a amendment to the act that would do the following. it would require the use of a standardized form set that would be approved by d.o.d. secretary and the v.a. second it would cocoa late to allow greater inner department collaboration and reduce delays in transfers of information. third, it could compel the usage of software solution between d.o.d. my ideas, and dashboards to allow service members greater transparency as to where they are in the process at the current time.
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finally, the amendment would establish a working group comprised of personnel and d.o.d. as well as private industry leaders to evaluate the program itself. the working group would make recommendations on how to better serve those going through the process and better utilize the resources that are allocated. i want to emphasize that goals of my ideas amendment is two-fouled. first, increase transparency and increase accountability for the departments. i think everyone in this room is already aware of the issues of transparency and accountability are at utmost levels. whether it is quick start or the traditional claims process is a service members first exposure to the v.a. system, we want to
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ensure that it is a positive expense for all who use it and those who it was designed to serve. those very people who have served our country. mr. chairman and members of the committee, thank you for your indulgence and i yield back my time. >> i want to recognize him, i believe he has an opening statement. >> thank you mr. chairman. i wanted to introduce someone who is going to be on one of the later panels debra gipson. i'm sad to say a former constituent of mine moved out of el paso in march. we're going to in this her. a former captain in the u.s. army. during her time as a commissioned officer, she served as an executive officer for the transitional unit at fort bliss texas. she was separated through
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service ideas. she is here to deliver a statement about her experience with ideas and offer recommendations and i wanted to be here to welcome her and introduce her to the committee. with that, i yield back. >> i don't believe any other members have statements. at this time, i welcome the panel. you're complete and written statements will be entered into the record. >> thank you, ranking members and distinguished members of the subcommittee. thank you for the opportunity to appear before you today to discuss the integrated evaluation system. since 2007, the department of defense and veterans affairs have collaborated and integrated a transparent disability system
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for service members who have illnesses or injuries that may impede their ability to perform their military duties. ideas account for 97% of all d.o.d. evaluation cases. service members receive a set of disability examinations according to v.a. protocols. departments -- military departments determine fitness for duty and only company service members for conditions that compromise their ability to perform their military duties. v.a. companies for all conditions incurred or aggravated during military service. the advantages of ideas compared to legacy systems, include the almost of duplicate medical
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exam consistency between d.o.d. ratings and reduce wait times for benefits since rating determinations are completed prior to service members separations. these advantages have contributed to improve service members satisfaction within the ideas process. we're continuing to implement process enhancements such as improved policy, increase staffing levels, and new training requirements for case workers. these and other improvements have enabled us to achieve and remain below our ideas core processing goal of the 105 days for the past several months. information technology can also help us gain more efficiency within the ideas process. that's why we're working to develop a system that will support end-to-end case
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management, tracking reporting and abide directional electronic case transfer. we will work to ensure requirements are identified early. the department of defense is working dill diligently to support a system to ensure service members receive transparent compensation for injuries or illnesses incurred by the line of duty today, tomorrow, and in the future. thank you and we look forward to your questions. >> thank you. you are now recognized for five minutes. >> good afternoon members of the subcommittee. my testimony today will focus on the status of the integrated disability system. benefits at discharge and the
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quick-start program. with respect to ideas d.o.d.ests and results and changes in our evaluation system. together, the departments have created an integrated process for service members who have been medically retired or separated. this process was designed to eliminate the elements within the v.a. and d.o.d. the goals of the integration was to provide a seemless transition as a result of our collaborativests we have worked to achieve these goals. there are 29,000 service members for the four combined core steps v.a. processing time in april 2014 was 183 days. our target for those combined core steps is 100 days of the 295 days of the d.o.d. target. in an effort to improve, we created a plan that involvesseds
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a phrase approach. the first, to meet standards by march of 2014 which we have done. this proportion of the process is focused on ensuring service members who transitioning into the civilian world to receive timely benefits in which they are entitled. the second phase is to meet the time limit standards by october of 2014. we are on track to meet that goal and we'll do so. our continued partnership with d.o.d. is critical v.a. and d.o.d. is committed to serve our wounded and ill service members. the b.b.d. and quick-start programs are important elements to provide assistance to retiring service members and engage m the service members. the goal each service member
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wishing to make a claim will receive assistance to do so. participation is for those within 60-180 days from being released from active duty. quick start made processing claim available including those who are within 59 days of separation. we recognize there is work left to do. the average spending day for the quick start climbs is 193 days an improvement since may of 2012. as of april, 2014 the avenue ran spending is 136 days an improvement of 55 days since april of 2013. claims accuracy is a key element of the plan overall and we continue to improve.
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it is not measured for the b.b.d. or the quick-start prays. instead, it is measured as a whole, including the b.b.d. and quick-start claims we're processing. as of april 2014, our three regional offices and quick-start claims have three months issue-based quality between 96%-98%. the new predischarged program will consolidate and replace the b.b.d. and quick-start programs. we will leverage functionality available in the systems to add convenience to the application process and efficiency throughout the claims process. we're committed to supporting our nation's service members and our predischarged programs.
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we believe it is critical to the success, nothing less than our future veterans deserve. that concludes my statement. i am happy to answer any questions you may have. >> thank you. i will begin a round of questioning alternating between members as their arrival times. my first question is, you indicated that it keeps service members informed of their process. this streamline process may be in isolated cases but in my examples, numerous service members this communication is not occurring as a matter of routine. how is this communication going to improve and i would like both perspectives from both the d.o.d. and at the v.a.
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>> thank you sir. we recently increase our manpower and we find that we've also improved the training. we have minimal training standards and required training for each of the pueblos providing them more information. as far as keeping the individual aware, at the beginning of the process each member who is enrolled or referred to ideas is given a caseworker or a pueblo and that service member interacts with them through all phases. at the beginning of the process, the member is told approximately how long the process will take and is updated as they move from phase to face. it keeps them aware as to what they need to do.
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they are encouraged to bring their family members in so they are aware of what is going on through the process also. >> our military services coordinators are located at the sites along with the d.o.d. pueblos tone sure referred conditions that d.o.d. is referring to the process but any claimed conditions that veteran wants to claim. our military coordinators are there to walk them through the process and to help them understand the process. they are also there frankly, if you will as a touch point or reach back to the activity site if that veteran has questions we're capable of getting back to that radioactivity site to share information with that service member and/or their family. >> i want to go back to ms. weaver. you said the interactions happen
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typically as they move from phase to phase. are there huge gaps in timing of different phases or are they pretty standard as they would fall in a timeline? say there is three phrases in the process, does one take three quarters of the year and the next one take a month typically? >> each phase they go through has a goal in the process. >> are the vet -- are the service members made aware of the timeline in the phase or just the overall process? >> they are told of the overall as well as each phase. as they go through each phase they can tell them where the next phase should be, however, we don't have a case tracking system that will tell them where in the phase they are. if their claim is agunned kateed
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and how long it is going to take before it is done and when the informal p.e.b. is going to be completed and moved to the next one, next phase. >> i have one last question and then i'm going to go over a little bit. this is for mr. murphy. as accuracy is an overarching matter of importance, i would like to ask you about the quality component star. the star program has several classifications such as benefits and entitlement decision, documentation/notification. however, the national rating agency is based on benefit entitlement error. my understanding is star does not count errors with potential
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to affect veterans' benefits, such as when a claims folder lacked required evidence, including a medical examination or an opinion to make an accurate decision. can you comment on any of that? >> i would say that is not an accurate statement. if the absence of an examination when one is needed would be called a benefit entitlement error for us. we do have a classification error, which is what you just described. part of that, if there is something that should have been gained, evidence that should have been reviewed that would require benefit entitlement error to be called. >> ok, i recognize you for your questions. >> i would ask, if you have an explanation of why the number of people going into these programs has dropped off, it is only a third of the transitioning
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service members elect to use these programs. also if you think the v.a. made the same kind of investment that the department of defense made in personnel and some of the changes described by ms. weaver if that would help with the backlog? >> certainly, i would tell you i've heard particularly some of the concerns about the quick start not getting as many referrals as we anticipated. i would tell you that we know we had some challenges with timeliness. we made some dramatic changes to the resources that we provide to the b.b.d. and the quick-start processing in july of 2012 in an effort to ensure we closed on those performances around timeliness.liness numbers that we were seeing then. i reflected in my statements the
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improvements we made and we look for those to not only be sustained but to grown upon as we mu b.b.d. and quick start from the expectation for the service member transitioning. whether they have 1-59 days and not able to get to a v.a. exam prior to discharge or 60-180 day mark and complete the exam process to ensure the timely process of those claims as they transition to civilian life. >> the deadlines keep getting pushed back, hasn't one been pushed back to october for meeting those time lines were supposed to be met in august? >> ma'am those timelines that you're referring to i believe are for the ideas program versus the b.b.d. and quick start. we look at those differently and the nature of the service member being boarded out for disease or
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injury. from that standpoint, for the proposed ratingsings we will close the inventory capacity that we need to. by october we will hit our deadline for proposed ratings. we're already for the final notification to that service member. we are now meeting the 30 days for that time period. >> ok, an average of 48 days, i think. i want to ask you about the fact that 95% will be discharged. is there a way to address that? we've heard about segmented lanes and express lanes is that not some way to look at more flexibility there if we know 95% are not going to go back into active duty. can't we figure out a way to prioritize those cases and move them out faster?
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>> you know ma'am, i think around the ideas program, it has been a joint process with d.o.d. we want to ensure that we're meeting the spirit and the intent, which is to move that along as quickly as possible. i will turn to ms. weaver to correct me to 100%. i also think there is the obligation of ensuring that we've gotten them to the point that they are ready to be discharged and want to ensure that we work with d.o.d. and the requirements that have established to make sure the service member is ready for transition. i don't know if you will add to that. >> we are working with v.a. to look at other opportunities and concepts to expedite the process. we do have an expedited process for catastropheically injured or ill personnel. after briefing each member who
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is qualified, we have no one that has opted to take that process but we're looking to see if we can broaden that concept to those that aren't catastropheically but seriously see 23 we can expedite it. these are in concept stages and we're working with v.a. on that. >> ok, thank you mr. chairman. >> thank you, ranking member. with that, the chair recognizes mr. cook. >> thank you mr. chair. a couple of comments and probably the same ones i had when i was chair of the veterans committee in the house in california. i look at it from the perspective of the veterans and the people that you're dealing with. just going through this paper right now we're looking at
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pueblo m.c.s., m.e.d., m.b.q.'s c.a.v., a.v.c., i know that one. i knew m.a.b., that is marine expedition brigade. the pueblo was captured by the north koreans. i thought it buzz b.d.a. that was battle assessment. i can go on and on. if i was a person being discharged, i think i know more about cling on than these acronyms. i try to forget most of them after 26 years in the marine
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corp. then i got an education and you learn all kinds of things. the point i'm making is trying to communicate with the people you serve by using this foreign language, at least from my perspective, is very difficult. a lot of people don't get it, particularly the seniors. they have serious problems. when i see 95%, that is something we can streamline the process. airlines notify people when their plane is going to be late or what have you. the technology now. i tell you i'm the worst one to talk about technology because i'm horrible at it. thank god i'm married and i have a wife who is very bright. i have grandkids who fix my computer. a lot of people are just brain dead when it comes to
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technology. you have to have a respect for some of these things that can streamline that and make the system more efficient. now, it upsets me that it takes so long and i look at it and this is a statement more than a question. when world war ii started, you know, where people had to enlist, go through the physicals, get trained be on the front line almost, you know, so we would not lose the war. they did it. getting people in the same thing with korea and other times where you get people in and you can expedite the process. now we have the system on the back end where people -- i spend 26 years, a lot of people spend a lot of years, it is a sum persome --cumbersome process. it is complex.
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i don't think i'm the dumbest person, maybe in this group maybe i am. trying to understand this when you're going through it, i think we have to at least make it user friendly so you can have that feedback easily. right now the process starting with the language is very, very cumbersome. everybody that works has their comfort set with the acronyms and vocabulary. the average person is too nice to say what does that mean? i'm dumb so i have to ask what that an crow anymore is and give me an explanation. the average veteran is used to taking orders and what have you they are relying on that gunnery sergeant, that staff sergeant, the master sergeant.
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they are vital and we're talking about a bureaucratic nightmare. i understand what you're trying to do but i want to throw my 2 cents in where let's get it down to someone like me can understand it and you will have more cooperation. >> thank you. with that, i recognize the gentleman from texas. >> thank you mr. chair. mr. cook, you made me feel more comfortable with my ignorance. if you can admit it, i feel comfortable admitting my own. mr. chair, earlier, i had the privilege of introducing ms. gipson who will be testifying later. she organized a tour of the facility and getting to tour the facility and getting to meet the service members who were there
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we first learned we had soldiers at the w.t.u. who had been languishing there for months and years because of delays within this ideas system, especially in seattle. when we last had a chance to speak about this in february of this year, i talked about the v.a. rating goal being 15 days and for the fort bliss soldier was 143 days. the benefits goal being 30 days. at that time, it was 87 days in reality. that was my focus and it is still my focus today because what i think i've heard you all say is we're now meeting our benefits goal as of april of this year but when i look at the latest data, which is 18th of
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may of this years it shows for the army, we're at 48 days, instead of the goal of 30. fort bliss soldier is at 49 days. when i look at what you're committing to doing by august/october in the rating of getting to 15 days we're at 132 days army wide. 131131 for the soldiers at fort bliss. explain to me the inconsistent cities on the benefits goal that you say you already achieved and the numbers i'm seeing here for may and how you can possibly achieve the goal for october given the wide variance between where you are supposed to be and where you are today. >> yes sir. i would tell you i think we are talking about the work we're completing and the kern months versus the numbers you are reflecting are the entire year
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is everything we have completed. what we know about the work we're completing today if you work behind the system the work is younger. we're now achieving for the benefits notification phase, we are now in a timely position. the capacity that we have will continue to maintain that timely output for the claims that are putting to us in that time of the phase. as we continue to work for the proposed ratings, similar issue. the capacity with which we are tackling the volume of work come august we will marry out the work flow and it will put its a the 15 day for the proposed rating decision timeframe as well allowing for the october number to catch up if you will for the average for the entire year. >> let me see if i can understand this. this is a difficult concept for
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me to get and it is similar to the way you explain to us the backlog numbers when it comes to disability claims for veterans and how we should be measuring the backlog. someone enters the system today and we'll use fort bliss as an example. at the benefit stage they will wait no longer than 30 days, is that correct? >> at the end of the process, the final notification, when we get that final package back from d.o.d., the time it takes is at 30 days. i will need to go and look if fort bliss is outside of that but i believe we're looking at a timely situation across the benefits phase. >> i've got limited time but the reason then i'm showing 48 days army wide, versus 30 days, which is what you're saying you have the older cases in the system. as soon these move out you will
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be at the 30 day? >> you're looking at information that is why i need to sit with one of your staffers to look at. are you looking at the average processing time across the entire year? as we look at the work coming in, it is now timely. >> ok, this is something my time has elapsed. this is something i'm going to ask my staff through this hearing to memorialize in a letter to you and get a written response back from you so i fully understand it so i can go back to fort bliss and say it in my words. i think you are saying what they want you to say and what they want to hear. thank you in advance for getting back to us. >> happy to do that or sit with anybody you that you would like to look at the fort bliss statistics.
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>> i recognize the gentleman from florida. >> thank you mr. chairman. i appreciate you holding this hearing. i think mr. cook is right on with his acronyms. he has been saying it for months, years really. let's sit down and work on this because it is so important to the veteran. and to tell you the truth, i have to read these twice. for the good of the veterans, we owe them that so they can look at it and not have to have the computer training and it would be nice for them to spend time with their grandchildren. my kids fix my computer, too. let's get serious about this. i have a couple of questions here. ms. weaver, you noted by the summer of 2014 the military departments will be able to work from a much improved set of policy documents that will provide better guidance.
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when exactly will the policy documents be issued? >> they are in the final processing and they will start being published, hopefully next month through the end of august. >> ok, will you be able to quantity fie their impacts on both quality on their decisions and how will that occur? >> we're implementing the quality assurance programs that will help the department measure accuracy and consistency particularly in how policy is applied across the services. services performed to evaluations. we analyze the results and we can see if policy has been applied or if policy needs to be revised. >> thank you.
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ms. weaver you noted 83% of the service members are satisfied with the ideas experience. can you tell us more about that. elaborate, please. >> each quarter we do a customer satisfaction survey. the survey is done at a sampling of the nine major locations where ideas is -- where the members are enrolled and a consensus that the remaining 131 m.p.s. the survey is done after the medical evaluation board and again after the physical evaluation board. it is a volunteer survey. july through december we did have 8,000 individuals who participated in the survey. from the 30 questions four
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related to sustained wind her satisfaction. 83% indicated they were satisfied with the process. >> 8,000 out of how many participated in the process. you said 8,000 participate, how many are in the process? what is the percentage is? >> i don't have that number for you but i can get it for you. >> please or would you like to estimate for me? >> i don't have any number. >> can you get that to me and maybe the chairman would want that information as well. >> thank you ms. weaver you highlighted the case-file transfer system. the pilot in 2012 but you know until v.a. develops the end of the technology it will not yield benefits and it is not going to be timely, in other words.
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please elaborate on this and what has d.o.d. developed and what has the v.a. need to do? >> we used the electric transfer. >> see what i mean? >> yeah. [laughter] it was a successfully piloted that we made the transfer in december of 2013. what we're working on is a join system, a case management system called joint evaluation system that will allow us to track cases, monitor exactly where they are so we can go from phase to phase and know exactly where the case is and do a transfer to and from internal within the service from the m.a.b. or
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medical evaluation board to the physical evaluation board and fund d.o.d. to v.a. we're in the concept phase identifying the requirements. we think this is going to gain major efficiencies for modern and efficient system. >> all right, thank you very much. i yield back, mr. chairman. >> thank you gentleman. i recognize the other member from florida. >> no question, thank you. >> thank you mr. gentleman. i'm going to ask one question. i had a couple but he got to them all so thank you. this question is in the mold of colonel cook over here. we hear everything that is going right. i want to hear what isn't going
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right. what do we really need to fix that would make a huge difference in the process? what can we really tackle? what can we get out of this hearing that as colonel cook identified his flaws in front of everyone. that is what we want to know from you. what is one thing that could change the trajectory of this whole process? >> i think what d.o.d. is hearing from the hearing is we need to look at our survey. we have a significant number of people who are participating in the survey and we're getting results that say as of december, 83% were satisfied with process. as of the end of march 4,000 more surveys 84% were satisfied with the process. and we're trying to make changes
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from the information that we get to the survey. we may need to look and see whether or not how we can reach out and touch the individuals who are expressing concern with the time or the counseling they are getting. >> i would echo some of those sentiments and it sounds like our ability to communicate with the service member, soon to be veteran can be improved. we have worked in the last year to pick up another component of the transitioning service member as they think about what is next and appointing counselors to build that system around the transitioning service member. i would tell you that obviously, we want to continue to work together in that electronic interface to ensure that d.o.d. across the services
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builds the integration system, it marries up, if you will, into the new benefits management system and in a paperless environment to ease the process in which we share information not only internally but with that transitioning service member. as if they selected a service member officer as we roll out our new stakeholder enterprise portal functionality in july of this year so they can support that service member and that communication standpoint. >> i think you touched on it a little bit there and it goes back to the question, what does the v.a. need to do on your end in the electronic case file transfer to make it opt mall? >> i would tell you to make it optimal, there are things we need to do from a m.s.c., the
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military service coordinator at that site and their ability to work at that environment. the functionality of incooperating it into the interface to ensure that is occurring. it is on our road map to accomplish that. as d.o.d. continues to build their new case management system, we want to make sure we're there to incorporate that as well. >> and what part of fiscal year is that happening? >> sir i would have to take that one for the record. i'm not sure where it is on the road map. there are a number of things that we're trying to import, if you will, or build into the functionality for bbms. >> one last question for ms. weaver. you said you had an 83% satisfaction rating. what was the 17% on the other
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side? what was the kind of overall disappointment in the system? >> it ranged. a lot of the comments were that they did not get the information they needed. it was varying with the medical evaluation board and the fiscal evaluation including the unsatisfactory rating that they got. they would like a different ratingrating and move from there. >> thank you. >> thank you mr. chairman. i would like to follow up on the line of questions they was pursuing about ideas. i think i might have questions that hopefully clarify this issue. on the benefits backlog portion
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of the process you said in march you eliminated the backlog and by april you were hitting your target of 30 days, is that correct? >> yes sir. we closed the capacity gap between what we had to work and what we had the capacity to do in march. in april, the work we began to see the work flow through was meeting the target. >> the number i referred to earlier or i show army wide were at 48 days, not 30. that is the last three months. so that might explain the difference. so my question to you is, if we take the same measure three months from today, it will show 30 or under? >> yes sir. we have built this in our projection, and our modeling to ensure as we move forward we maintain the achievement of the target. >> so i want to ask the same set of questions that pertains to
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the v.a. rating of this. the goal the 15 days. today, the last three-month average shows army wide 132 days. are you saying by august, you will relieve the backlog and by october you will meet that 15-day goal? >> yes sir. >> so in october we will see 15. >> 15 for the proposed and the 30 for the final notification, yes, sir. >> wonderful. would you mind if, again, we could get that commitment from you in writing? >> not at all, sir. >> i appreciate that. thank you. that is all mr. chair. >> thank you. no other members have any further questions, i ask any of the questions that you all were taking for the record please submit them in writing. thank you very much. thank you all again. i think it is particularly help to feel have the v.a. and the d.o.d. at the tail. table.
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you can excused and we will seat our second panel from eoig. >> welcome the members of the
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v.a. inspector general. we appreciate your attendance day. ms. halliday you're recognized for five minutes. >> thank you for the opportunity to discuss the o.i.g.'s review of the predischarge program. our testimony offers an independent assessment of b.b.a.'s quick-start program one component of b.b.'s predischarge program. with me today is the director of our atlanta office and two managers from the inspections division. they have collectively have over 40 years of b.b.a. work experience. notably, they have experience working in key positions such as veterans service representative, rating specialist, decision-review officer certification test writer, star quality reviewer, as well as
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veteran service center manager. the quick-start program was designed to provide a seamless transition from d.o.d. to v.a. health care medical system. they can submit claims up to 180 days under the program. further the program allows veterans to receive benefits soon after leaving the service. to assess the performance we reviewed claims in 2011 and again in 2013. we found improvement in claims processing timeliness. during the period, b.b.a. reduced the average days to quick-start claims from 291 to 249 days. timeliness improved, additional improvement is needed to achieve the v.a.'s secretary f.y. 2015
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target of processing claims in 125 days. delays in processing quickstart claims led to adequate resources and the proper allocation of resources are paramount for v.a. to realize the benefits of its transformational initiatives. delays also occurred due to a lax training to ensure staff properly identify quickstart claims, which is the first step to initiate timely processing actions. our reviewers support that the quickstart claims were at risk of processing errors such as erroneous disability evaluations or improper grants or denial of benefits. we projected that the v.a. staff
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, the accuracy rate for two thousand 13 improved to 69%. these rates are still well below the secretary's 98% accuracy goal for 2015. delays and errors impact veterans who seek disability benefit payments in two ways. first, the processing delays resulting in a number of veterans waiting an additional 100 96 days to receive about $88 million in benefits payments. i 2013, -- by 2013, the same processing delays were reduced. approximately $20 million in benefits payment. processing delays also impact other decisions such as veterans preferences, delayed care in v.a. medical centers, and
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rehabilitation efforts. secondly, the claims processing errors have a direct financial impact on the amount of veterans a dash of benefits a veteran receives in monthly recurring entitlement payments. we projected claims processing errors resulted in veterans being underpaid about $2.89. -- about $2.8 million. additionally, claims processing errors that do not affect current monthly benefits have the potential to affect future benefits if left uncorrected. whether v.a. is making incremental progress in areas specifically targeted through this initiative, much more work needs to be done. we will continue to look for ways to promote improvements in benefits delivery operations during our future national audits and inspections. that concludes my statement and
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we would be happy to answer any questions you or the committee has. >> thank you. we will begin a round of questions. >> the accuracy of the concern is of great concern for the veterans. accuracy is highlighted in your testimony about a serious area of concern. i would like to also ask you the question about the quality components star. it has several classification errors, such as benefit entitlement decisions documentation, notification. mr. murphy responded to an inquiry of the failure to count error for instance with potential to affect veterans
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benefits, such as when a claim lacquered -- required evidence like medical examination for an opinion needed to make a decision. can you comment on that? >> a broader definition of what constitutes an error. we report errors that affect veterans benefits as well as those that have the potential to affect veterans benefits in the future if left uncorrected. we think this is important. it is a veteran-centric approach. we do not feel that the star program council all of its errors. there is a disagreement between what oit considers an error and how bva calculates accuracy rate. we have examples that might help you understand. eva does not consider an
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incorrect disability evaluation to be a benefit entitlement error unless the error impacted the veterans overall combined disability evaluation. oig would identify this case as an error because it has the potential to affect the future benefits. if left uncorrected. that also has a corresponding effect that could affect other programs as the ratings change. cases where bva staff do not request or significantly delay requesting the mandatory routine future examination to determine whether a temporary disability determination should continue. we clearly call an error. we see a significant financial impact associated with not managing those claims appropriately. >> thank you. next question.
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working with the oig to make the improvements identified in the audit process? >> this past year, there have been significant challenges to us to address the oversight needed, that we are expected and charged with, to look at the benefits inspections and perform national audits. i finally raised this issue to the undersecretary. she has agreed to try to should ensure -- try to ensure that we do not have these obstacles or this resistance and that we work for dave -- toward a facilitated process so that oig can help bva to get it right. this is important. to spend so much time dealing with the nuance of technically how you say something versus trying to fix the big picture is
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not the way to go. i think you need to look at what are we saying, why are we saying it, how does it affect veterans and then go make the changes you need in these programs. >> last question. in your view, given the challenges with the long-standing backlog of claims do you feel the v.a. has control over the remaining lanes? >> at this time, we see that the v.a.'s compensation claims backlog is dropping. i have concerns that they do not have a good handle on some of the workload in their other areas. for example, in the area of dependencey issues, their own report, the veteran operations report, shows almost 253,000
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disability claims that will impact benefits. on average, the claims are pending over 315 days. for eligibility determinations, the same report shows approximately 110,000 adjudication decisions relating to benefits that have been pending, on average, 361 days. predetermination notices, we see approximately just over 81,000 predetermined notices affecting benefits that have been pending for 177 days. there are definitely problems in managing the workload. the priorities, we hear time and time again, the priority is to bring down the pending backlog of compensation at the expense of not addressing some of the other issues. the quickstart program is a
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perfect example within our audit where resources were redirected away from that program and you can see, in the audit, there is a table that the workload, the timeline is spiked to 2012 and i know bva is working hard now and has put resources back in the program. you have to keep resources dedicated to significant transformational initiatives if you want to achieve success. >> thank you for that answer. i had that precise discussion with the chairman this morning. with that, i will recognize the ranking member. >> thank you, mr. chairman. i was going to ask that question too, if you think these programs are being hurt by the focus on just reducing the backlog no matter what. and the people who are in these programs do not count as part of those figures that are used to
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show the backlog even though they are waiting these long periods of time. >> that is my understanding, yes. >> another thing that does not seem to count, and you mentioned that the v.a. does not count the processing time that occurs drier to lead -- prior to leaving the service, when they talk about the amount of time it takes to process one of these claims, would you expand on why that would be an important aspect of this whole backlog? >> in the simplest of terms, if i am a veteran and i file a claim, i start counting from that day. i understand that vba is concerned that they have upfront processing where the service member has not become entitled to the benefit. when you are looking at a process, you must look at the process throughout the entire processing cycle or you can
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understand where you have dedicated your resources and to what extent you are getting the appropriate outcome from that resource. so in my field, if you go with a veteran-centric approach you would count that time. you would not start the payments for entitlement until they were released from active duty and came into v.a. care. >> that would help you to understand the whole process and procedure and make needed adjustments. >> absolutely. i think that, in the many discussions i have had with ms. rubens and mr. murphy, i know that resources are needed. you have to make good decisions on where those resources are. i think it is very important to measure all of your resources and track those. it is an area where the
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undersecretary had not concurred with us in our report. we are going to stand pat with what we said. >> going back to the first point about these programs failing because so much are doing less well than expected, it is a matter of robbing peter to pay paul, isn't it? >> i have said that a number of times. rex well, great minds think alike. thank you. >> the chair recognizes mr. cook. >> thank you very much. i will not say too much more maybe. your report, very sensitive because i used to be an i.g. i looked at your recommendations. by the way i.g., that is a job
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how to lose friends and not influence people, i used to say. but it is one you have to have in an organization. your job is not to make friends. you already know that. what bothered me a little bit, and maybe if you can help me out, in two cases it had the vba, which is, help me here, that is the veterans benefits administration? >> yes. >> they disagreed with your opinion. then you had the other one where it was the undersecretary. is that the same individual? >> i would consider it the same. >> you know, these are -- i was
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looking at it. particularly one where the undersecretary not concurred but basically went along with it anyway. did this go all the way up to the secretary or is this something -- is that a command decision? we are getting rid of some dicey stuff in the last few days on this. i am trying to figure out who is going to make these command decisions. maybe it is just my sensitivity with i.g. reports, but 26 years in the marine corps, you get a little nervous about i.g. reports, at least i used to. maybe because i used to write them. i do not mean to put you on the spot, but you know what i am saying. >> it is the responsibility of the undersecretary for benefits to provide the official signed comments to an i.g. report.
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i believe that the secretary does get copies at the point of when we issue the draft for review and to obtain those comments and then gets copies of the final report. if the report is significant, we certainly brief -- i would think we follow traditional processes where we have a discussion with the vba officials that are charged with governance of specific programs. i have had many briefings with that team and they feed up to their usb. >> this is an important point. in the military, you used to have two things. one was bidirectional authority a commanding officer and someone in the command could sign their signature by direction. that means, signing by direction, that the commander approves this read the other was
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releasing authority. releasing authority means you can go out with a message that you are the secondary and division. -- the second green -- marine division. you do not give that authority away. that is why i brought up that point that whoever signs that, basically, the secretary is concurring with all of those decisions that are made. it is on his or her watch. correct me if i am wrong. >> yes, this is the official comment. >> all right. in terms of your role -- and i think it is very important to go back to how would you even be more proactive? do you have any recommendations with regards to that?
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i am not asking you to do more work, but i am asking you to do more work. >> i think we plan the audit programs based on the risks in the programs. if you were to ask me about being more proactive i think there needs to be more discussion at the senior levels as work is completed to really how are you going to fix the problem? as i alluded to before, worrying about the technical nuances and getting everything letter perfect does not get you there. you have to address the overall problem and how veterans are affected with the processing and what is happening and whatever objective of the audit you are dealing with. >> thank you. i yield back. >> the gentleman from texas. >> thank you, mr. chairman. the benefits delivery discharge
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claims and the quickstart claims , i think, year to date, are under 25,000. we are measuring those in the thousands or maybe tens of thousands. all of the other claims, we are measuring in the hundreds of thousands or the millions. when you are responding to the question earlier about robbing peter to pay paul, you also mentioned that we need to make better decisions about how resources are allocated. do you have some recommendations for the vba or the committees of oversight in terms of how we should be spending that money? >> i would like to see that you ask bva to do -- vba to do a good staffing analysis for its initiatives and current work in-house. there are too many areas that are being underdressed --
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under-addressed at this point or under managed. if you were to put the right resources on some of these things such as temporary 100% disability evaluations, not being managed effectively and the associated financial impact that we reported in our -- that we recorded in our reports, that would start to reduce and you would have a better operation. not only would veterans be served quicker with whatever decisions and reviews were needed to make sure that their claims were accurate, we would be saying that you are making a stronger position as far as the financial stewardship that you are charged with the ba to ensure -- with vba to ensure the decisions are accurate. >> thank you for that. the chairman brought up a good question about why the ba --
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vba's score for accuracy is better than your score. one difference in your methodology is you look at potential adverse impact of benefits down the road. is there any other difference in how you assess accuracy? >> yes, i believe there are. i would like to ask nora to talk to the technical aspects of that. >> as you mentioned, there are some definite differences as far as potential to affect benefits. we do all errors that relate to that. that is when things are missing from the file. as mr. murphy indicated in his response, i believe the specific question has to do with whether or not the vba investigation would constitute an error. what we find in our benefits inspections are teh vba -- the
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vba investigations are not necessarily missing, but some are inadequate. according to policy, those examinations should be returned. if an examiner notes something during a physical examination and another disability questionnaire is required and it is not completed, we consider that an error as well because you cannot come to the point where you can make a decision on a disability evaluation if you do not have medical evidence to go one way or the other. those are some stark differences in the methods that we would determine an error versus vba. >> i hate to ask you to speak or the vba -- for teh vba, but what is their response to that distinction and the assertion that those exams should be returned or counted differently than they are right now?
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>> we have agreed to disagree. that is why it is documented in this audit. >> my last question, i do not know if you heard the exchange over idez and where we are against backlogs and goals for rating but did you have any concerns or questions or did you agree with the assessment provided by vba with where we are at? >> i cannot comment on that, sir. i do not have any ongoing work discussing that. >> thank you. >> i want to follow up just a little bit on what we have discussed. i understand the disagreement on timeliness issues seems jurisdictional and several other matters, but on accuracy, your report states that the accuracy is about 69%.
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one of the areas of non-concurrence is something that seems benign, insufficient oversight of training. can you elaborate a little bit on that? i will put my cards on the table. in many ways, you are providing a little bit of oversight into reasons for the accuracy. -- for the inaccuracy. one of the reasons you identified was insufficient training and oversight. we are engaged with the same issue on health care delivery. can you elaborate, to the extent that you are permitted to, on the interpretation about the department's ability to provide oversight training in this specific area? >> i would like to ask ken, but as you look at the training issue, it spoke specifically to how you identify a quickstart claim. i would like him to --
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>> the department actually agreed with the training recommendation on the identification of the quickstart claims. where they disagreed was on the clarification of policy concerning a nexus between service members the disability incurred during service, and the claimed disability. are accuracy experts here are -- our accuracy experts here are ms. stokes. >> one of the areas where the oversight is lacking has to do with the local quality reviews. at the local quality level, we did find that the accuracy reviews that they would conduct on a local basis was lacking. while they did have some, they did find it to be inadequate. when we discussed this with staff, they told us that they
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were busy and had other responsibilities and that they did not have the time to conduct a comprehensive review. at the national level, we found there was a lack of oversight and that the method that starr uses to select their samples was lacking in that it did not sufficiently identified enough cases. you could get a feel for what the accuracy rate was with the quickstart claims. or they co-mingled the results of the quickstart cases with the results of the regional office. as an example, the winston-salem office had 255 reviews, but only six of those claims that were reviewed were related to quickstart. we found that the method they were using was not sufficient to observe any sort of training deficiencies. the other part of that is, not only at the local and national
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levels were they not able to have a valid sample that might point to some of these training deficiencies, at the local level, when they did conduct quality reviews, they also did not track those kind of errors so they could address the training deficiencies by tailoring training to those areas. >> one of the reasons given was busy. the part that concerns me is the use of the word training because of what that means for the abilities of an employee to perform. oversight, in one way, is a little less concerning if that is where it is deficient. if training is where it is deficient, that creates a more systemic problem as the cases go up and the number of cases go up, failure in training continues to build upon itself and create a larger problem. i appreciate your answer to the
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question. thank you, mr. chairman. >> do any members have any further questions? i want to thank you all again. you are now excused from the witness table and the next group will come forward.
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>> with afternoon, everyone. -- good afternoon, everyone. all of your written statements will be taken for the record. i want to recognize mr. o'rourke. >> thank you, mr. chair. the person i want to introduce his herbs a second introduction. -- deserves a second introduction. a retired captain from the u.s. army, in the transition program, a former constituent of mine recently until march. she was instrumental in ensuring that i understood some of the issues at the wtu and i think
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will speak very eloquently to some of her personal challenges that can be extrapolated against the challenges that many transitioning service members face. very glad and grateful for her presence here today. >> thank you, gentlemen. we are going to start with mr. jenkins. you are now recognized for five minutes. >> chairman, ranking member, and distinguished members of the subcommittee, thank you for the opportunity to testify on the critical issues surrounding the quickstart programs. i appreciate the opportunity to share my views based on our members. i am a 15-your combat veteran in the u.s. during core -- marine corps. i am a sergeant in i work both bvd and quickstart
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claims. i want to start with my dedication to all of these programs. these programs are critical for providing the benefits as soon as possible and is essential that a function at the highest capacity. my regional office has a history of brokering claims to other regional offices in an effort to reduce a backlog. in doing so, it has created a lack of -- we have approximately 20,000 cases and the last three years. claim process are struggling to meet production standards. supervisors have been left scrambling for the quickstart employees. they are relegated to completing duties. due to the lack of work, management instructed employees to begin a practice.
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pre-rating is a case as not ready for decision because we are waiting for additional evidence. they break -- they rate as if they have already been received. this raises serious questions for both the veterans and employees processing the claims. employees could potentially receive quality errors if medical evidence are rises that does not coincide with the pre-rating decision. veterans should be concerned about this method he used by management and its effect. avg urges congress to hold senior management accountable for their brokering methods and potential effects on veterans and their dependents. employees and the programs report the same dedication to the process. however, they outlined several
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issues that consistently appear. claim processors explain their frustration with training issues or military service processors as they are called. mc's are scattered all across the world. they are attempting to locate additional information in this awful difficult to locate the original. and it is often difficult to locate the original. our reports said this is not the case. this slows down the process for the employee combo bubbles employment increased wait times for the veteran. amg believes it will reduce this issue. -- this slows down the process for the employee, but most importantly it increases and the wait time for the veteran. as they come to the regional office, at times to receive
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medical records, they cannot locate. all of these issues translate to major concerns of production levels. claims process are told not to do for cases even though a decision cannot be made due to a lack of evidence. there is constant pressure from the v.a. and field operations and production established by arbitrary. amg, resources for quickstart and claims. claim levels have skyrocketed all regional offices have seen minimal growth in staffing. amg urges bva to hire and provide more in-depth and relevant training for current employees. amg also urges bva management to conduct a study to determine how long each staff takes to complete wall working a claim. with the recent transfer, this
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study is more applicable and necessary than ever. once again i will like the commission for thanks to share our views. >> thank you mr. jenkins. mr. gibson, you are recognized for your testimony. >> thank you. i would like to thank the congressman for inviting me to speak today. in 2011 while training to deploy to afghanistan, i received a severe back injury. by the time it received at the site in fort worth, texas, i was confined to a wheelchair earning me the nickname the wheelchair soldier. days later, i was prescribed a cocktail of drugs to allow me to walk but without excruciating pain. plus and the warrior transition program, it required surgical intervention.
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before my back surgery could be performed, i required a procedure to treat uterine fibers. i did not receive a follow-up gynecological appointment. i was determined to be medically unfit to serve. received a 20% disability rating . and received separation pay. within days of filing paperwork agree to the rating and i needed a hysterectomy. i want to be clear my head i received a follow-up to the original gynecological procedure, my hysterectomy would've been performed a year earlier and my disability rating would have been 70%. instead of being medically retired, i was medically separated from the united states army in 2014. in my opinion, a strong democracy requires 2 professions. the legislation and the service
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member. each the weapon of the other. healthy servicemembers are the weapons of the legislation. we served as your weapons. on behalf of all disabled veterans, we respectfully request that you harness your arsenal's full petition. i would like to present to you both short and long-term recommendations. please note i participated. and please forgive me for any policy recommendations which overlap those of previous presenters. the first is establishing a consolidation disability evaluation system. the system is tiresome, timely burdensome, and an efficient. the v.a. and dod must consolidate with a shared goal to promulgate and provide
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uniform guidelines and procedures and standards to eliminate redundancy and adjudicating claims. a disability rating. the military rates only conditions. resulting in 2 different rating system for service members. they will need to reject assistance on this definition of qualified conditions and the rate at which these events are to be compensated. understandably, in favor of the most generous v.a. system will result in a corresponding rise in retirement and medical costs. information sharing. shared use technology that will enhance and improve accessibility to health care records. it is both necessary and ambitious. however, the lack of technology is only part of a much larger problem. government agencies must generate a memorandum of
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agreement allowing him to openly share information. this will likely create a change in agency cultures for one of independence to interdependence. my interim recommendations are as follows -- first, a -- servicemembers and the transition process often complain about the receipt of timely payments once a claim has been adjudicated. the receipt of benefits can take from 90 days to a year or more to process. while uncertain of the legal or tax implications, i recommend that once a service member inter-federal service active-duty, guard, or reserved, a part of the seller should be ask world until retirement price -- a part of it should be escrowed. it should be a lump some payment
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used to bridge the gap between the date of retirement and receipt of any long or short term benefit. and emerge as the brady reconsidering -- an emergency rating reconsideration. within 60 or 90 days of a rating should receive a disability rating reconsideration. to plead a comprehensive staffing needs assessment which i believe has been covered by other members. reduce abuse. the system is replete with opportunities for abuse and fraud. the adjudication process is to provide compensation and benefits for long-term injuries and illnesses. and his sister compensate for injuries and illnesses must incentivize healing and recovery was a it is not a politically correct notion. however, if looming costs are to be reduce and full recovery achieved, this must be a
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corresponding goal. a comprehensive assessment must be performed about where opportunities exist to eliminate fraud waste and abuse. finally, organization chain. we have got to change the organization culture which punishes services member directly or indirectly for injuries or illnesses. and the current climate, servicemembers deemed off it to fight -- unfit to fight are labeled often unfairly as lazy or cowardly. however, leadership training must encourage compassion dignity, and respect. likewise service providers must receive similar training. toxic leaders both military and civilian must be either retrained our move out of leadership positions or positions of authority to mitigate damage to wounded and
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or recovering servicemembers. in conclusion, the suggestions to improve will each require a cost-benefit analysis to determine. such analysis is beyond the scope of this presenter. what is certain is that each cost and benefit must be assessed using qualitative and quantitative analysis. it is my believe that undertaking such analysis on however painstaking, would improve to benefit to retiring servicemembers. thank you. >> thank you. the chair recognizes mr. avila. >> good afternoon. on the behalf of the national commander and a 2.4 million members, i want to thank you for bringing attention to americans transitioning service members. you are playing -- paying close attention to the organizations.
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the american legion brings experiences to the claim process and critical stakeholders who can help with the government meet the obligations to veterans. the v.a. has recognized the dividing line of service and through the programs like the fully developed lanes initiative capitalize on the partnership to improve the claims process a help them get the benefits they earned through their sacrifice and in a more timely fashion. in my current position as a physical board representative, i have the privilege of servicemembers who may not be able to continue their military career due to a medical condition. these individuals represent some of the most at risk transitioning members. while the current disability evaluation system known as ides is an improvement of doing
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medical evaluations, we can always make a better. the american legion has a staff in salem, north carolina and utah and all processing sites in washington state and washington, d.c. capital region. we found servicemembers could benefit from better information. this is perhaps illustrated i the national guard who may be going through the process by themselves at their home state. they did not have access to the same information and resources as are active-duty counterparts. they are making decisions that will impact their entire civilian life and they are being asked to do with a little information of what the impact it will be. as a legion officers, with the bring insight to what benefits they are entitled or not entitled. -- as a legion officers, we can bring insight to what benefits they are entitled to or not
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entitled to. time is critical. what resources are available. what sure to discharge or options best suited to them. it is hit or miss without a good counseling. the american legion helps over 500,000 service members with a quick start claims. as thousands of veterans and go on represented. it is often difficult for service organizations to communicate with servicemembers. the a is making errors -- v.a. is making errors only on 69%. service members the advocacy. the american legion hopes to continue to work with the department of defense and veterans affairs to ensure that all veterans have advocacy throughout the process. the system is this to serve those who wear the uniform of the united states of america. -- exists to serve those who
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wear the uniform of the united states of america. thank you for inclusion of the stakeholders. we are happy to answer any questions. >> thank you. >> thank you. good afternoon. we appreciate the opportunity to testify to examine more closely the ides program. my remarks will address three issues we find important. first, time frames and benchmark established when does within the ides program. it was designed with finale of 290 days. for prose rating decisions are
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required to be issued within 15 days of receiving notification that a service member has been deemed unfit for service. the offices and the field report delays in the process. in some areas ranging from 3-6 months. once a separate and consider a veteran, the disability compensation is expected to start within 30 days of discharge. the offices have reported delays in providence, rhode island and previously delayed in seattle. and the seattle, washington site, changes have been noted because of reorganization. a site in rhode island not only affected by determination but the proposed rating. dod finds most were ports are delayed our personnel related typically a lack thereof. it remains outpaced resources. you value wishes are needed for
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personnel requirements and whether the proper case model exists. of critical importance is when a service member crosses the threshold and becomes a veteran. a delay here can have serious consequences. it may be their sole source of income. second, access and support. the transition services offices have earned a renowned reputation and active-duty and veteran community despite herbert bidwill attributes and proven track -- and despite their proven record, they have been unable to provide. it was heavily engaged in the process. personnel records and 101 counseling to provide information and answer any questions. -- one on one counseling to provide information and answer
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any questions. it has been met with resistance at some installation. there has even been even to remove. what is counterintuitive assistance is promoted whether the process is self or physical evaluation. most certainly what engaged during the field process. they burbs and six percent of claimants and 70% of all pellets -- they represent 60% of claimants and 70% of appleeellates. reemployment services. servicemembers have direct access to counselors stationed at installations where ides is performed. this ides parameter is staffed with counselors drawn away from offices and operations. they testify on many occasions
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about the benefits of the program. we provide opportunities for deployment upon separation and services. the army benefits may not be realized by personnel as their focus could be on post-9/11 g.i. benefits. however i am a independent budget partners have recommended that congress remove the 12 year period to make sure it is available when needed. with the wide range of benefits offered, servicemembers must have a complete understanding of the benefits as possible there proves critical sometime in the future and circumstances in their lives change. in conclusion, resources needed must be identified and utilized. goals and parameters must be aligned to meet their service member mission. involvement during the precept process is vital and should receive greater support by all program porters was -- program
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partners. they must be identified. program understanding for injured service members and their family the best advantage by leveraging all tools and resources to successfully transitioned out of the military. we thank you for the opportunity to present this testimony today. >> thank you. the vfw testimony. >> mr. chairman, on behalf of the men and women of the veterans of foreign wars, i would like to thank you for the testimony -- for the opportunity to testimony. this past memorial day, many americans felt pride in veterans who fought. surveys show 91% of americans said they are proud of servicemembers. unfortunately, the pride of america has is not fully imagined by the government agencies charged with supporting
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their transition back to civilian life. the 2007 walter reed scandal was a wake-up call that the government was not properly caring for our wounded warriors. the public was outraged that they were living and disparaging conditions and inattentive management. equally concerning was that veterans were being shortchanged on disability or retirement benefits as they have earned. as a result, congress and the president had oversight over the system. congress concluded that the care coronation and integration were fragmented leaving the public as servicemembers and their families to question the commitment to those who carry the burden. in 2008, congress forced policies to ensure the disability system which determines their benefits were streamlined and fair. as a result, dod collaborated
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for an evaluation system which simplified the process by eliminating duplicate disability examinations ratings. the v.a.'s responded by expanding quickstart programs to allow servicemembers to make claimed before their discharge day. the vfw believes these promising programs are a step in the right direction. however, were recognize these rogues are far from perfect. service members service from -- suffer from member -- however we recognize these programs are far from perfect. -- suffers -- servicemembers still suffer. vector members are waiting too long and move into transition units. to reduce claims and processing times, we recommend that dod
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elaborate to reduce that time and expedite the adjudication of claims. to ensure dod creates and enforce the policies that ensure servicemembers are not shortchanged all benefits, not all policies or at global and we recommend congress give the undersecretary the sole authority to develop policy for the services present -- for the services provided through9. -- through ides. it is impossible to have a integrated process without an integrated electronic health care records. it is imperative that congress make sure that dod collaborates to fully integrated health care records system. also communication between dod and senior officials must increase and the department must conduct a better outreach reach
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to servicemembers and family caregivers. in conclusion, we acknowledge both a department of defense and veterans affairs are delivering quality service when accessible. we give them credit for at justin the system as setting ambitious goals for delivering benefits so long as he goals are achievable. timeliness is drastically improved from the estimated 540 days it took with a legacy system and dod continues to shorten the amount of time to process disability claims. however, they did not have the policies and procedures and resources for the influx of servicemembers who will be transitioning to civilian life is -- civilian life. to ensure that properly plan for the future but also must provide the resources to improve the access to care and benefits
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servicemembers have earned. mr. chairman, this concludes my testimony and i look forward to answering any questions. >> thank you. we will begin a round of questioning. my first round is going to be for mr. avila you noted in your testimony to a recent audit by vv aig on the quickstart program, they responded lack of timeliness was due to an increase and claims. unfortunately, this seems to be a pattern. they do not radically project their future workload and divert from problems focusing on unrelated issues. can you please elaborate on the statement and how negatively impacting the subs focus -- the substance focus on predischarge claims? >> mr. chairman, as i work as a mvb issue, i wanted through the
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predischarge claims. i retired two years ago and i use the predischarge claim. i use the bvd when i had over, i had 180 days. that was the program currently being pushed by the v.a. they say your claim will be process a you will receive bennett -- benefits as soon as you exit the military. these claims go to regional offices. and a lot started filing and went to salem or utah to start receiving the claims. what we saw was the quickstart claims became a backlog because almost every member that was transitioning was told that will be the most advantageous way. we created a backlog. i believe now they bvd and the quickstart claims have calmed down a bit. i mentioned the discharge which
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is another initiative that started. basically, you submit your claim with your medical documentation and ask for v.a. to adjudicate because they have all the information available. the claims are being adjudicated dependent on regional office between 130 and 135 days. i deal with ides. all army cases go to the seattle regional offices and the others go to providence, rhode island. right now, the issue is the seattle regional office, the army, if you look at the numbers, they have a majority of active cases. do they switch them out to another office? or look at another system to get to these members their ratings a little bit quicker so we can process them out. >> thank you. my next question is for mr. jenkins. you note in your written testimony that a predischarge employee has difficulty with
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communicating with msc's. what do you have for improved communication? do you believe greater involvement in predischarge claims would have a alleviate some of the concerns? >> well, to answer your question chairman, with a have a vso involved, they had direct contact with the veteran. they interact on a regular basis. sometimes they can speak for the veteran when it comes to a claim which can speed the process along. as far as communication training has a lot to do with it. some have been hired that do not have previous development training. they have a lack of understanding of the process. it all has to do with training those are the bottom lines to it all. they had to be trained properly and understand the process but with how it works between the
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regional office and the locations as well. >> thank you. to the ranking member, mrs. titus. >> thank you. i would just say, first, ms. gibson, my colleague was certain right. yours is a powerful and eloquent voice for change. i would ask you if at any point during the process, were you asked to by anybody or did you take a survey about how it was working? what could've been done better? did you feel like anybody was asking for your feedback? >> yes ma'am. i do. the issue with the survey is that -- i have some familiarity with the surveys. and when you survey people, it makes a difference and what their response will be. for example if you survey a
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service member who has recently entered the process as they are within the first 30 day window their comments about the v.a. or ides system will not be negative at all. they have only participated in the process for 30 days. if however you survey that same servicemember, say for example within six months of them exiting the service when they had an opportunity to reflect back on when what happened to them i think that numbers may look very different. to answer your question more specifically yes we were surveyed. at the time i took the survey, i was about six months into the process and i do not seem very daunting to me. had i been serving again at mom fifth -- at month 15, my answer would have changed. >> the results you think are skewed by when they take the survey?
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i suspect that is true. it is easy to manipulate. i would also ask the vs auto -- vso's, if you ever heard the term quickstart, no finish? and if you have -- have you ever discouraged anti-soldiers from going through any of these programs as we have heard antiqued finish anecdotally -- anecdotally? what specifically can we do to enhance your role to help soldiers before they are discharged like you helped them after they become veterans? that might facilitate this process? >> i have heard of the term. what i come to do, i deal mainly
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with servicemembers. the vso's have representatives. what i am currently advising someone getting out is not to do bvd. right now, this is getting the results a little quicker. they wait until they require -- retire and gather all of the information. once you are retired eight you can do it before and fill out your paperwork and on the first day our retirement, submit to the v.a.. it depends on the regional office as well. a focus to put a different resource out there for veterans that are transitioning. from my point on ides yes, the soldiers as you know have legal rights. once they get the results that have some days to seek legal
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counseling. that means offices on installation. not a lot of dso's are doing cases. they are doing transitional the v.a. claims. i think may be speaking with the dod and i did have a meeting with the dod stevens, who is a director and trying to say what the american legion can do. we have services officers, can we assist? what can we do to get the word out? >> thank you congresswoman. yes, we have heard of that term before. quickstart, slow finish. we have discovered some servicemembers from going through depending on their personal circumstances. what can we do? there used to be broader access and all of a sudden what -- it became a more and more marginalized. it is a collaborative effort.
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we are all in it together. we understand the active-duty component and the veteran component. and we have a transitioning service officers. i like to call them translation service officers. we can translation -- we been translated a lot into what they understand. >> thank you for the question. i think the numbers on the quickstart speak for themselves. too much 49 days on average. members receive their benefits in eight months. -- 249 days on average. that is not delivered on discharge. we do that in regards to quickstart and we recommend to servicemembers that they not submit a quickstart claim. it it depends on where they are going home to. if they are going home to columbia where the regional officer is faster than the others, we will say wait until you get home and we will send a fully developed.
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if they are going to waco or houston, which is not well at all, we will say let's do a quickstart now and start the process when you get home it will be horrendous. one thing we recommended and the testimony is to treat quickstart claims like you would a fully developed claim. the only thing different -- will i should say bbd is a 214. they get to the rating officer fully developed. as theoretically, usually rate that today. they are pushed to the side and kind of waited on as they work the other cases. if you'd treated in the same process, you would likely see a fall in processing times. it is important to recognize that you shift the resources there am they are taking resources from elsewhere.
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we believe these servicemembers are in need of the benefits of the most. they are transitioning and they are wounded. i still may be looking for a job -- and still may be looking for a job. they really need that in it, to help enter the process. -- income to help enter the process. >> thank you for the time. >> i would like to begin by noting for the record that the bva is still here and was here to listen to the testimony from veterans and vso's and those working within the system to serve veterans. and note ms. holliday and her team is here. we appreciate their attention and respect to the members who are here given their testimony. ms. gibson, you came up with a number of really good recommendations for us and bva
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and dod to follow. one of them was to change a culture that can seem as it is punishing servicemembers. i have purchased directly from servicemembers at wtu in el paso. will had rather egregious cases that it seems though punishment is punitive, overly. , if not downright -- overly punitive, if not downright embarrassing. we wanted to get it down to 185 additional days. can you talk about from your own experiences at what you have seen or witnessed within that culture? and how we might go about changing it? and i will have one additional question. if you can answer that within the span of a minute or two.
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>> it has been my experience is soldiers are often treated with -- it is not open hostility, but at a minimum, a sort of dismissive attitude. i think you have to start with the premise that soldiers deserve the wounded warrior program and they deserve to have their illnesses and injuries treated. i think if you started there, that's a great springboard to build policies and procedures that will advocate on behalf of the soldier. what i think happens is there is a consensus that these programs are simply here for soldiers to take advantage of and get as many benefits as they simply can before they exit the system as there is resentment that builds up. i think there are policies that can abate that mentality. i think you can go a long way in changing the culture. >> i should also say i had a
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chance to speak with some of the commanders at the wt you. from their perspective, they have obligation and responsibility to maintain discipline and readiness. and there's understandable tension between people on the verge of transitioning out and their commanders who have had them in the case of el paso, a period of 200 days longer than they should. given this impetus to try to reform the system and as you say reform the culture with in it. i wanted to follow up also the comment you made and ask you a question that i asked about where we might better commit resources and staffing. we heard from mr. jenkins that one potential byproduct of brokering is that we have some regional offices looking for work or creating different kinds of work and may not be as
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effective or efficient. you have heard my concerns about the ides process. what are your views on how we can improve staffing levels? what are we missing and where are we missing it at? >> thank you for the question. i feel ms. gibson was right on and saying there needs to be a staffing reassessment. we here in all of these reports that there has been missed management. but it is coupled with a lack of staff. so, i would like to personally know what the formula is for deciding staffing levels? whether they have such a formula and what it consists of and how often they do the assessments. for dod as well. we always hear they are missing physicians and rating officer's across the board.
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there is a lack of resources. it is hard to decide where to put the money and allocate the resources if there is not a proper formula for deciding what the staffing levels and should be anywhere it might be missing or too much. >> from my perspective, as long as bba is able to meet their stated goals for timeliness and accuracy, i am happy for them to decide where those resources are applied. it seems that they may need help from oversight bodies or vso's that work for them. i would ask you to continue to stay in touch with us. we might see deficiencies. we'll are not meeting our goals for a missy and timeliness and what we might recommend. -- where we are not meeting our goals for timeliness and what we might recommend.
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>> another minute or two. >> and light you were about to say something else. -- it looks like you are about to say something else. we would love to give your indulgence. >> and the report, they pointed out that it was san diego or salt lake city, they had requested additional staff and they provided the staff and their facility when to use the staff for other purposes. we see that quite often where they set we use all of these people for quickstart and they cut them in half and use them for other cases. which shows that they meet -- and they may need even more staff of what they are asking for. >> thank you. >> thank you gentleman in every bite for being with us today. the panel is excuse. i appreciate your time you spend preparing


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